February 20, 2011; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (35) throws in a drill as teammates watch during spring training at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The Undercards: Archer Duels With Banuelos as Bulls top AAA Yankees

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With the Rays (hopefully) ending their slide with their win in Baltimore on Sunday, the minor league games go from a diversion to icing on the cake- as long as they can play well and win. Luckily that was the case on Sunday.

Triple-A International League: Durham Bulls 3, Empire State Yankees 1

So often in the major leagues we see a marque pitching matchup lined up. Often, the matchup fails to live up to expectations. In the minor leagues, it’s the same situation, but multiply the odds of failure by about 100 if not more. But on Sunday, the Chris Archer-Manny Banuelos matchup lived up to every bit of the billing it received.

Manny Banuelos and Chris Archer were both every bit on top of their games. They fought each other punch for punch and the result was a draw that had to be decided by the bullpens. Both pitchers allowed a run, Banuelos in the 3rd and Archer in the 4th, but both runs were unearned. Banuelos went 6 innings, allowing the unearned run on 5 hits, striking out 7 while walking none. 61 of his 89 pitches were strikes and he forced a 5-3 groundout to flyout ratio. Archer, meanwhile, also allowed the unearned run in 6 innings, but he was nearly unhittable- and uncontrollable. He allowed just 3 hits, although he did walk 4 batters, but the big thing for him was 9 strikeouts (that’s a 13.5 K/9 for the game). He threw just 58 of 103 pitches for strikes, but he got whiff after whiff and forced a 4-2 GO to AO ratio. The Bulls came away with a win in this one thanks to a Stephen Vogt RBI triple off of Chase Whitley and a Shawn O’Malley RBI single against Adam Miller. Ryan Reid and Brandon Gomes came through with 3 shutout relief innings to seal the win for the Bulls. The top of the Bulls’ order, Kyle Hudson, O’Malley, and Matt Mangini, had great games, combining to go 7 for 13 with a walk, an RBI, 2 runs scored, and 2 steals. Vogt also went 2 for 4 with his big go-ahead hit. The Bulls are still an embarrassing 14-24, but we’re seeing them make progress and hopefully they’re on the verge of a run.

Double-A Southern League: Game 1: Jacksonville Suns (MIA) 6, Montgomery Biscuits 2 (7 innings)

Jake Thompson continues to frustrate observers. Thompson struck out 5 in 4.2 innings, but he allowed 3 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks and took the loss in the game to fall to 0-4 with a 6.68 ERA on the season. Marquis Fleming seems to be trying to catch up to that high ERA, allowing 3 runs in 1.1 innings of work, including a Kyle Jensen home run. This game did end on a positive note though. Scott Shuman, who has faced unremitting control problems the entire season, came in to pitch the 7th and struck out 2 in a perfect inning, throwing 10 of 14 pitches for strikes. It’s just one game, but hopefully Shuman has finally found some way to control his pitches, which include a high-90’s fastball along with a slider that is great when he can locate it. His 11.37 ERA on the season is not what you want at all, but hopefully it’s about to get a whole lot lower over the rest of the season. On offense for the Biscuits, Ty Morrison had a nice game, going 2 for 4 with a stolen base, and Brad Coon and Greg Sexton each went 1 for 3 with an RBI.

Game 2: Montgomery Biscuits 7, Jacksonville Suns 1

The Biscuits didn’t have a true starting pitcher in this one, instead stringing together 3 innings from Merrill Kelly and 2 each from Alex Koronis and Kirby Yates, but it all worked out as they pitched well and the Biscuits’ offense had a nice game. Catcher David Wendt was the table-setter, going 3 for 3 with a triple and 3 runs scored and was the only Biscuit with multiple hits. Ty Morrison finished off his nice day with a 1 for 3 performance with an RBI, and Hak-Ju Lee went 1 for 4 with his 9th stolen base of the season after going hitless in the opener. With the 1-1 day, the Biscuits move to 18-20 on the season as they continue to creep towards .500.

The High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs had a scheduled day off and will take on the Ft. Myers Miracle (MIN) today, while the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods were rained out and will play a doubleheader against the South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI).

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Tags: Chris Archer Manny Banuelos Scott Shuman Shawn O'Malley Stephen Vogt Ty Morrison

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